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If you looked at Nikon Monarch 5 binoculars years ago, you may remember that they used to be called ATB; that is, All Terrain Binoculars.
Nikon revamped their binoculars lines, so now the ATB has become the Monarch 5. (It’s actually a little more convoluted than that, but since that’s almost ancient history by now, we’ll just leave it at that.) The 8×42 model is one of the best budget binoculars for birding.
If you’re in a hurry or you’re already quite certain you want these binoculars, just click here to see them at Amazon.
What Are the Important Features of the Monarch 5 8×42 Binoculars?
One of the items you’re looking for in a good pair of binoculars is clarity. The Monarch 5 has ED, which stands for Extra-Low Dispersion, glass. Formerly, this high-quality glass was only available in the Monarch 7 line. It’s still there too, but not you, as a Monarch 5 owner, can enjoy its benefits as well.
This gives you an even sharper and clearer view than normal Nikon glass. Fully multi-coated (the best coating there is) lenses and what Nikon calls Eco-Glass just add to that clarity and to the brightness. Dielectric, high-reflective, multilayer prism coatings inside simply add more goodness to the mix.
Weight and Balance
These binoculars weigh just 20.8 ounces which means they won’t give you a sore, tired neck at the end of an afternoon hike. They are extremely portable and even comfortable to wear using the good neck strap which should be provided.
Those relatively few ounces are also balanced quite well through the pair of binoculars. They are not “front heavy” as you might expect the larger end to be. This makes them good for longer periods of use, such as an afternoon of hiking. Your hands won’t get as tired trying to manually balance them in front of your eyes, since the construction of the glasses takes care of that for you.
These 8x42s are 5.7 inches long and 5.1 inches wide. You’ll have to determine if they will fit into your jacket pocket or not, if you choose not to use the neck strap. You can use these measurements to figure out how much storage space you’ll need when not using them. The case will obviously be just a bit larger than this.
All Monarchs, thus including those in the 5 line like the 8x42s, are known for their smooth focus mechanisms. This is another feature that you really want. It may at first sound like a really minor point, but you’d be surprised how annoying it can be to work with a pair of binoculars that doesn’t have a focus wheel that moves smoothly.
When you’re trying to hold the binoculars still on your target, you don’t want something as simple as the movement of the focus wheel to be jerking your hands causing you to lose sight of that target bird or deer.
The close focus of these binoculars is 7.8 feet, according to Nikon. This means that you won’t get a sharp focus on anything closer to you than that distance. If you intend to use these for magnifying butterflies, moths, and insects, you might not get the view you want. If you need to get closer than roughly 8 feet, look for another set of glasses with a shorter close focus.
This video from Hayneedle shows all these features quite well.
Even though it may be true that some bird field guides have trouble reproducing real life colors correctly, if you do have a guide with accurate color pictures, you obviously want binoculars that will reflect those colors so you can match the bird you’re viewing to the picture in the book.
The quality glass and coatings in these binoculars will give you that color accuracy. The technical term for this is that the glass corrects chromatic aberrations.
Sadly, accidents will happen. When they happen to you and your Monarch 5 binoculars, you don’t need to worry because these have rubber armor coating and are both waterproof and fog proof, thanks to their nitrogen filling and an O-ring seal.
That outer coating gives you a non-slip grip, so accidents should happen less often, even if they get wet. Combine that with the overall body design which is made for an easy grip, and you get a set of binoculars that really should never leave your hands unless you really want them to.
These are roof prism style binoculars. For most people, this is really just a matter of styling. The tubes are straight for the entire length of the glasses. The other possible style is Porro in which the objective lenses are further apart than the eyepiece lenses.
At the end of your eyepieces are turn-and-slide rubber eyecups. As the description suggests, you turn and slide them to make adjustments.
Finally, we come to the eyepiece lens caps. There has been much said about these. Many people simply do not understand how they are intended to work.
Unlike the objective caps, which fit very snugly, the eyepiece caps are rather loose. This was a conscious design decision. Normal use of these binoculars involves hanging them from your neck with the strap. In the hanging position, the caps stay in place just fine.
When you want to raise them to your eyes, you need to quickly remove the caps. These caps virtually remove themselves at that point, unless you have “locked” them in place using the strap sliders. Even if you have the sliders in place, it takes just a quick motion to loosen them, flip down the caps, and put the glasses to your eyes.
Field of View
How much you can see through the lenses is a factor of the field of view (FOV) that a set of binoculars gives you. The FOV of the Monarch 5 8×42 binoculars has been reported in various places with various numbers.
I found the FOV noted as 228, 288, 329, 330, and 361 feet at 1000 yards. Which of those, if any, is correct?
I think we should trust the Nikon website here and go with 330 feet. That’s the “horizontal” distance the lenses show you when you’re looking 1000 yards away. I say “horizontal” because that’s the way it’s easiest to think of it, but it’s really also the vertical and any other directional distance you care to consider. It’s the same as any diameter of the circle you’re peering through when using the binoculars.
What’s Included in the Nikon Monarch 5 Binoculars Series?
Nikon actually makes 6 different Monarch 5 binoculars. Much of what I said about the 8×42 model above applies to each of the other five models as well.
Besides the 8×42, there are the 10×42, 12×42, 8×56, 16×56, and 20×56 sets. The magnification and FOV are the only differences that really matter for the models with the 42 millimeter objectives.
For some reason, the FOV gets reported differently in various places online for each of these sets. According to the Nikon site, the FOV of the 10×42 is 288 feet. For the 12×42, it’s 261 feet.
The 56 millimeter objective glasses weigh about twice as much as the 42s. You probably would want to consider putting these on a tripod to use them properly.
The FOV of each of these is 325 feet (8x), 215 feet (16x), and 173 feet (20x).
You can also get camouflage versions of some (perhaps all?) of these models, if you are really concerned about staying out of sight while looking for your birds or deer.
If you really want a good set of 8×42 binoculars but have decided, for whatever reason, that the Monarch 5 just isn’t for you, then take a look at this overview of several 8×42 binoculars.
I think you’ll eventually find a pair that pleases you and your budget.